Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hanukkah Lessons and Yoga: Endurance and Determination

Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from the Hanukkah story. One of the lessons of Hanukkah is to maintain one's strength, endurance and the determination to accomplish one's goals, regardless of the obstacles in the path or the challenges that are presented. The ability of the Jewish people to survive and to thrive over time, in many different circumstances, is an inspiration to us all. If you apply the same resilient philosophy to your Yoga practice, you'll be far more able to succeed in progressing in your practice, especially when times are difficult. There are many different Yoga postures that help to nurture both physical and mental strength and endurance. 

For instance, completing the entire Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga in a heated room is quite a challenge for many students. By completing the Primary Series in one Yoga class, a student’s sense of accomplishment and the ability to prevail, even when the practice is challenging, will help to bolster the student’s sense of what is possible and improve his or her self-esteem. In the same way, practicing a series of vigorous standing poses, arm balances and core strengthening postures, such as Navasana, will help to increase your ability to follow through on your goals, as you strengthen your ability to endure and complete the practice in an unwavering, determined fashion. 

* Forearm Plank Pose or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana

Forearm Plank Pose is a Yoga posture that quickly builds upper body and core strength. It is also a posture that is generally accessible to most Yoga students. Practicing Forearm Plan Pose, or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana, on a regular basis will strengthen your wrists, upper arms, back, and core muscles. This pose also stretches out the hamstrings, arches of the feet and calf muscles. In addition, Forearm Plank Pose helps to release tension throughout the shoulders and relieves stress and symptoms of mild depression. 
Forearm Plank Pose is usually practiced after warming up with a series of Sun Salutations and standing asanas. When you are ready to practice Forearm Plank Pose, come to a kneeling position on your Yoga mat. You may wish to use a Yoga block in between your forearms, in order to keep your arms in correct alignment during your practice of the posture. If you're using a Yoga block, place the block horizontally across the top of your Yoga mat. 

Place each hand on the side of the block with the corner of the block resting between your thumb and your index fingers. Keep your palms flat on the mat. If you are not using a Yoga block, place your palms flat on the mat and your forearms shoulders’ distance apart. If you would like to use a Yoga block, in order to help you maintain the correct alignment in the posture, but you do not have one, a book that is approximately the same size as a Yoga block will also do quite nicely. With your next inhale; raise your body off the Yoga mat by pushing against your forearms. 

Keep your body in a straight line from your feet all the way to the top of your head, just as you would in Dandasana. Hold Forearm Plank Pose for three to five complete breaths, and then release the posture and rest for a moment in Child's Pose. Repeat Forearm Plank Pose two more times before moving on to the next asana in your Yoga practice. When the pose becomes challenging, remember to harness the fierce determination and endurance to meet your goal of holding Forearm Plank Pose for three to five breaths, just as the Jewish people did when they defeated the Syrian-Greek army in 168 B.C.E.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing assignments and may be contacted

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Key Points For Teaching Vinyasa Yoga

By Faye Martins
Vinyasa comes from the Sanskrit word meaning, "flow," and the flowing movements from one position to another are the essence of the many forms that constitute Vinyasa yoga practice. Vinyasa is often compared to a dance, and this aspect of the practice can pose special problem when teaching vinyasa yoga classes.

Occupy Your Space Fully As Teacher

In yoga, the role of the teacher is designed to be different from the role in regular sports or other exercise programs. The teacher must fill both a physical and philosophical role. The teacher must be well trained in the many aspects of yoga practice with an understanding of the various levels of ability. In addition, the teacher must also have mental calm, clarity of purpose and patience to ensure that students understand the movements at whatever level of ability they can perform. The yoga teacher should also encourage balance in students' performance, thought and emotion during the class, as befits the philosophy of yoga. If experienced students challenge the teacher, he or she should respond in a calm and professional manner, encouraging the student to achieve the best performance they can under all circumstances.

Get Off the Mat Quickly

Teachers should demonstrate flowing movements clearly to the students, but then quickly get off the mat and interact with them directly. Teachers may have a variety of different skill levels in the class. Be available to help with asanas and breathing techniques so that students can become more confident. Encouragement and correction should be both gentle and specific.

Balance Challenge with Ease

Teachers often find that relying on a continuous series of challenging asanas can overwhelm students and may become discouraging to them. Mixing challenging positions with easier ones gives students an opportunity to pace their energy during a session and creates an atmosphere of practical achievement.

Respond To Students' Concerns

Vinyasa teachers often design their programs according to their own knowledge and abilities, forgetting that students may not be aware of the hazards of some positions and difficulties in maintaining a constant "flow." Stay alert to students' concerns and be prepared to adapt your program, when necessary, to maintain interest and feelings of confidence.

Study Many Forms of Yoga

Your knowledge of the different forms of yoga practice will help you to establish a working understanding of how the various positions flow together in an integrated and manageable way. It will also help you to establish your competence with students who may have studied a number of forms of yoga in the past and will allow you to communicate with them in a knowledgeable manner. 

Be Aware of the Risks

As a teacher, you must always keep in mind the hazards of the practice. Be aware of the occasions when the student may be at risk for injury and provide helpful suggestions about maintaining control in the position. If you continue your studies of yoga, you can more easily keep in mind the many areas of potential problems where your student may need additional help and guidance. An understanding of problems with balance, flexibility and smooth transitioning can help you to provide the information and encouragement that your students will need.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How To Use Yoga For Chronic Stress Relief

reduce anxiety
By Faye Martins

These days, more and more people are realizing that they can use exercise as a tool through which they attain optimal wellness. In many cases, people are seeking to become more healthy by eliminating chronic stress. While there are many types of exercises that can be performed in order to reduce or eliminate chronic stress, many people are unaware that they can use yoga for chronic stress relief. To learn more about this important matter, review the information found below.

Yoga: A Brief Overview

The term "yoga" comes from an ancient Indian language called Sanskirt. It is derived from the word "yuj," which pertains to the yoking one observes in a team of oxen. In this contemporary era, the term yoga is interpreted as a reference to union. Specifically, yoga is a form of exercise that is completed for the purpose of uniting an individual's mind, body, and spirit.

How Yoga Reduces Chronic Stress 

Yoga can play a role in the reduction of chronic stress for several reasons. Firstly, the performance of yoga moves can induce the release of a hormone called serotonin in your brain. When released, serotonin induces feelings of calm and happiness. Upon experiencing these emotions, the feeling of stress can be reduced substantially. While this stress reduction is only temporary, individuals who begin to do yoga moves regularly can experience the aforementioned sense of peace and calm on a regular basis.

Yet another reason that yoga is effective in reducing the experience of chronic stress is because of the steady breathing that it typically involves. As many health and fitness experts know, steady breathing can normalize the heart rate. This cardiovascular activity is important for people who suffer from chronic stress because it is oftentimes associated with irregular heart beats.  

Getting Started

People who are serious about limiting or eradicating the experience of chronic stress in their life should note that yoga is a great way to accomplish the objective. Individuals who are ready to get started should know that they can "jump right in" or take things slow. Ideally, people currently suffering from chronic stress should consult with a physician before they sign up to participate in a yoga class. After gaining the physician's consent, the patient can enroll in the class of his or her choice. Preferably, a beginner class should be selected. Beginner's classes are great for individuals who are just getting into the practice of yoga because the instructors tend to be very supportive and encouraging. Additionally, yoga instructors will oftentimes offer a great deal of assistance to ensure that the beginner learns how to execute the movements properly.

Individuals who want to get the most out of their beginner yoga classes should be sure to bring everything they need to the session. Typically, this will include workout clothes, a towel, a water bowel, and a mat. Additionally, remember that simply doing a once weekly or twice weekly yoga class is not sufficient to completely eradicate stress. Rather, people who want to eliminate the experience of chronic stress in their lives should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet.


People who are serious about bringing an end to the experience of chronic stress should note that consistent engagement in physical activities such as yoga can help them accomplish this objective. By signing up for a local beginner's yoga class, people who want to attain optimal health can begin working towards their goal.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Risks That Yoga Teachers Can Avoid

being a teacher
By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500

As a yoga teacher, you are helping people become healthy through an age-old method. The role of a yoga teacher can be highly rewarding. People will come to you because they are looking for spirituality, confidence and fitness. As a yoga teacher, you are doing many great things but you are also running a little risk because there is some risk in any type of career.

Anytime you are asking people to do anything, especially through fitness, there is the risk that people will push themselves too far. By far, the biggest risk that you take as a yoga teacher is someone hurting themselves in the class.

People will want to push themselves, especially if they are in a class with people who are at a perceived higher yoga level than them. They want to reach that same level, so they push themselves to do stretches that they may not be ready for. As a yoga teacher, it is important that you know the fitness and skill level of all your students. You are taking on the risk of that student being in your class and possibly hurting him or her. As a result, you need to do what you can to prevent that from happening. You need to put them into a class filled with people who are of the same skill level. You need to provide them with one-on-one teaching so they can know how to do a pose properly. It is up to you to keep them safe.

Another risk that you can avoid as a yoga teacher is within the yoga studio itself. It is up to you to make sure that your yoga studio is safe. This means having everything put away so there is nothing to trip over or collide into. This means that your floors are clean, there is nothing slippery and that when students come into the studio, they are coming into a safe atmosphere. In addition, you need to make sure that all the yoga equipment is in good working order and there is no risk of an equipment failure hurting someone.

The other risk you take as a yoga teacher is just being a teacher and competing against many other yoga teachers in your city. Being a yoga teacher is rewarding, but it is not always the easiest job. You are competing against a lot of others and you have to do what you can to ensure that you come out ahead of your competition. In order to do this, you have to accept the risk of competition and the best way to do that is to be better than your competition. You don’t need to have huge classes to compete. 

Sometimes smaller classes that have more one-on-one time is better because your students will get more out of the class, and many will be willing to pay more for the extra instruction. As a yoga teacher, owning a yoga studio, you are actually an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, risk is the name of the game. You need to balance the cost of your studio, with the cost of advertising and supplies, while bringing in enough money to pay for all of those things. Once you conquer this risk, it is smooth sailing to being successful as a yoga teacher.

When you decide to be a yoga teacher, you are helping others discover how amazing yoga is. You are helping them learn how to be healthy, and be balanced in mind, body and soul. It is a wonderful career to have but it is not without its risks, so know how to manage them.

© Copyright 2014 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yoga, Happiness and Buddhism: Right Effort

warrior 3
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Many Yoga students and teachers begin practicing Yoga in order to increase their level of well-being and happiness, while simultaneously eradicating their suffering. Suffering comes in many different forms. You may find that you are suffering from a sense of isolation or loneliness, or you may find that your are suffering from a torn rotator cuff when you are practicing Seated Spinal Twist! Many people also suffer from a sense of despondency over how they are required to spend their time if they are not able to work in their chosen field or to follow their dreams whole heartedly. 

If you are to be able to spend your time working to create or sustain beauty and goodness in the world by following your dreams, you are truly fortunate. Many Yoga teachers, who choose to pursue a career teaching students about the different facets of a balanced Yoga practice, do so because they wish to offer their talents and skills to others in such a way that the world is uplifted. This intention is quite beautiful. When you help to nurture physical and mental health in your students by teaching a great Yogaclass, there are beneficial ripple effects felt throughout the entire community. 

These positive ripple effects may be as simple as one of your students feeling light-hearted enough to stop and help somebody in the grocery store parking who has dropped a bag of groceries. Or one of your students may find that he or she has a much stronger ability to stay emotionally centered in a seemingly unending traffic jam. Although these positive ripple effects may seem mundane at first, if you multiply these effects by several dozen students a week, you can see how your service of instructing Yoga students with right effort is helping to uplift the world.

The term “right effort” comes from Buddhism. It is one of the of the components of the Eightfold Path as elucidated by the Buddha over 2000 years ago. The Buddha was born a prince in the Shakya republic of the Himalayan Mountains in approximately 500 BCE. As the story goes, when Gautama Buddha left the resplendent protection of his father’s palace, he was shocked and overwhelmed by all of the suffering he saw just outside the palace gates. There were many people who were suffering and dying from physical illness, poverty and old age just outside the protective walls of the palace.  

As a young man, Gautama was deeply disturbed by what he saw, so he left the palace seeking to understand why such suffering existed. Gautama wandered throughout India in search of the existential reason for such suffering and for the deeper understanding of how to live a noble and peaceful life amidst such suffering. Over time, Gautama studied with numerous Yogis and spiritual masters. After many years of traveling throughout India in search of answers, Gautama sat under a large Bodhi tree and fell into a deep mediation that lasted throughout the night. 

In this meditative state, he received the answers he was seeking to life’s greatest mysteries. These answers are encapsulated in the Four Noble Truths and the eight aspects of the Dharma Wheel. Right Effort is one of these aspects. This profound system of understanding about the nature of suffering and how to eradicated suffering in one’s own life was the fruition of all of his years of spiritual searching and practices. In this way, he became the Buddha, the enlightened one.

If a Yogi or Yogini diligently practices the Eightfold Path as laid out by the Buddha, one’s Yoga practice will be deeply rooted in the wisdom of the ancient sages. This depth of understanding and practice will support a Yoga practitioner’s mental and physical health and well-being on many levels. Buddhism deeply addresses the nature of reality, why there is suffering, how we maintain suffering in our own lives and how to remove suffering so that we an live lives filled with peace, serenity and happiness. 

As a sensitive Yoga instructor, modifying the sequence of asanas to fit a specific group of students and what they need in the moment is one of the keys to teaching an uplifting and nourishing class. The underlying wisdom of the Buddha’s precept of right effort can help inform your choice of Yoga poses, breathing exercises and the inclusion of other spiritual practices when you are teaching a Yoga class. This level of sensitivity is one of the hallmarks of a great Yoga teacher. 

© Copyright 2014 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

5 Reasons To Practice Yoga For Chronic Stress

yoga for chronic stress
By Faye Martins

Stress is one of the most common ailments of the modern age. People have busy schedules, lots of responsibilities and a variety of worries in their lives. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to practice yoga. Many studies have confirmed the effectiveness of yoga for chronic stress. Let's look at some of the ways that yoga is beneficial for relaxation and stress management.

1. Promotes Healthy Circulation and Release of Endorphins

Any form of vigorous exercise can be useful for managing stress. Exercise keeps the mind occupied, promotes healthy circulation and causes endorphins to release in the brain. There are many styles of yoga, and each has its own particular benefits. Some people prefer a slower, more meditative type of yoga while others want a more challenging workout. However, practicing any authentic type of yoga on a regular basis is helpful for reducing stress.
2. Promotes Deep Breathing

All forms of yoga require practitioners to pay attention to their breathing. Deep and controlled breathing allows the body to absorb more oxygen. This is not only healthy for the entire body, it promotes calmness and a more balanced state of mind. The breathing techniques learned in yoga class can be applied to everyday life as well. Learning how to breathe deeply in stressful situations is one of the best ways to feel more relaxed quickly.

3. Yoga is a Form of Active Meditation

Certain yoga schools have meditations at the beginning and/or end of the class. Yet all yoga has a meditative quality. Unlike most other forms of exercise, which tend to be performed quickly, yoga poses are held for a certain length of time. As the practitioner holds the pose, he or she is encouraged to relax and breathe deeply. This form of exercise stretches the muscles and ligaments and it also helps the mind to release stress.

4. Helps the Muscles Relax

Tension in the body is transferred to the mind. People who carry a lot of tension in their shoulders, back and muscles tend to feel stressed out. Yoga poses are designed to release tension in these areas. That's why people typically feel both relaxed and invigorated after yoga classes. When the body lets go of tension, the mind and emotions also experience relief.

5. Promotes Restful Sleep

Many people who experience chronic stress have trouble sleeping. Yoga is a form of exercise that can help people sleep more restfully. One of the causes of insomnia is a sedentary lifestyle. Certain times of intense exercise, however, are so stimulating that they can actually make it harder to sleep, especially if they are performed too late in the day. Yoga is a form of exercise that can be practiced at any time of day and still help practitioners have a good night's sleep.

Because many people experience stress nowadays, there is the need to find effective ways to relax. Yoga has the advantage of being a simple, natural and healthy way to reduce stress. In order to gain the maximum benefits of yoga for chronic stress, it's best to practice or take classes at least a few times per week.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Benefits Of Taking A Yin Yoga Teacher Course

benefits the entire body
By Faye Martins

Yoga has become extremely popular in recent years for a variety of reasons. It's an excellent form of exercise that can be useful for stress reduction and relaxation. Some studies even indicate that it can help people to lose weight. There are many types of yoga, and one style that is currently becoming well known is yin yoga. This is a slow paced form of yoga where poses are held for longer than average periods of time. Some yoga practitioners decide to take their practice to another level and become teachers themselves. For such people, a yin yoga teacher course is something worth considering.

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga, which is also known as Taoist yoga, is a relatively new concept. Its teachings, however, go back to very ancient traditions of both India and China. Yin yoga takes its name from the traditional Taoist concept of yin and yang. While yang is associated with forceful and masculine principles, yin is more receptive and feminine. Thus, yin yoga is a slower, more internal type of yoga compared with styles that are more externally focused. In this way, it has some features in common with Taoist practices such as qi gong and tai chi. The postures, however, are taken from other schools of yoga, with some modifications.

The essence of yin yoga is to relax into each posture as much as possible. This makes the movements a kind of meditation that benefits the entire body. Some of the benefits of this practice include:

Calms the mind.

Reduces stress.

Improves joint mobility.

Promotes greater flexibility.

More energy throughout the body.

Some people practice yin style yoga along with other, more yang types of yoga. Others find that yin yoga alone serves all of their needs.

Reasons to Become a Yin Yoga Teacher

People decide to become yoga teachers for a variety of reasons. Some are mainly looking to deepen their own practice. Others are looking for a part time sideline that allows them to earn extra money while doing something they enjoy. Still others have the goal of opening up their own yoga schools. Students who decide that they like yin yoga enough to become teachers themselves must be ready to devote many hours to their practice. Becoming a teacher not only requires people to perfect their own movements, but to have the patience and perceptiveness to be able to help others learn. A good yin yoga teacher course enables people to work towards these objectives.

Anyone who is thinking of becoming a yin yoga teacher should first make sure they are ready to undertake this responsibility. It takes a certain amount of practice on one's own before one is qualified to teach others. Yet for people who are ready, becoming a yoga teacher can be extremely rewarding. It can also be a good business decision, as yoga is a form of exercise that is spreading very quickly. Yin yoga in particular has a great deal to offer busy people who are looking for a way to slow down and relax.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA.